Sharing Freelance life

Emily Malcolm and Carrie Creamer have been working closely together for the last 5 years. They met as part of Wiltshire Youth Arts Partnership.

Although the business closed its doors a few years back, both have found a way to continue working together. They collaborate wherever possible, sharing roles, be it research and development, project management delivery or collaborative engagement with a number of different providers. 

The year of 2020. A year of changes and new things. Get summer ready. Change everything. Here is how. 

Every year begins like this. We shed. We move more. We talk earnestly with our friends about our new exercise regime or we praise the benefits of a new diet. Some of us shed people, weight, jobs, places and things. 

“We began the year by developing a new project together”

Carrie Creamer 

CC: “Emily and I began working together a number of years back as part of our work with Wiltshire Youth Arts Partnership. It was a complete gift being able to work with someone like Emily. At the time we met, I was spinning a great many plates and it’s no secret that it was at times very difficult both physically and emotionally.”

CC: “I was working full time, working long hours and trying my very best to achieve a lot with often not much at all. Emily bounced into the picture to lead the Dancing back to 1914 Arts and Heritage project. I really enjoyed working with her. She always arrived with a list, with questions and a warm travel drink cup.”

CC: “Our meetings were always productive. We would meander around various topics before getting down to some planning, actions, reactions, budgets and debates. I think we both understand each other’s needs and rather than dig around in the dirt looking at them or moaning, we found a way to support one another. Trust became a big feature of our practice. There was no requirement for micromanaging from either part.”

EM: “I moved to Wiltshire to be with my partner five years ago. Until then I had only been working for organisations as a PAYE member of the team but after applying for a few jobs, attending a couple of interviews and seemingly getting no-where on the new job front, I applied for a freelance project management post with Wiltshire Youth Arts Partnership. I had managed many freelance workers in the past but admit to feeling pretty scared at the prospect. The contract wasn’t full time and it was time limited. What was I going to do when it ended? What happened about holidays, sick pay and a pension? How was I going to find other contracts to make more money? But needs must, I needed work and I got this position.” 

EM: “I also met the lovely Carrie. Carrie and I worked well with each other from the word go. I had a job to do and Carrie expected me to get on with it. She wasn’t standing over my shoulder checking what I was doing at every stage. She trusted in my updates and allowed me the freedom to get the work down.”

CC: “Towards the end of my role working with Wiltshire Youth Arts, I really was beginning to struggle. The balance of work and life had begun to consume me. My daily life would lurch from one unhealthy engagement to the next. Often groaning at the magnitude of emails or correspondence, I joined my colleagues in gazing into my laptop while I spilled my lunch across the desk and into my keyboard. I rarely took breaks. I left my house early and arrived home late. It began to feel like a battle and one that I would not win. As a single parent, this kind of working structure wasn’t going to end well for anyone if I kept at it like this. I noticed that a few colleagues were beginning to become ill with the weight of work and deadlines. I rarely had time to see my daughter, she was nearly 5 years of age at the time. I felt at times quite low in part due to working for a large institution which I make no secret about railing against on a daily basis.”

CC: “I was a Unite union rep and worked hard to ensure that colleagues achieved the best possible outcome when they were faced with redundancy.”

CC: “I watched some really good friends lose their jobs or shift careers or countries. I began to feel the injustice of cuts regularly. The arts are always the first to be cut in times of need. I get that. I even understand and acknowledge that. I made the really difficult decision to take redundancy. I think I slept for nearly a whole month after my last day.”

EM: “For me, becoming freelance was a blessing in disguise for me. My partner and I like to travel and with both of us working for ourselves no one could tell us when we were allowed to travel and for how long. No, you don’t get paid when you aren’t working but if you budget well you will be fine. So, we took a few trips and enjoyed not having to be answerable to anyone about where we were going and when we would be back at work. I also found that I enjoyed freelance work. I like working for different organisations, being more in control of my time and being focused on delivering work rather than on how many hours I am sat in the office.”

EM: “I am a naturally organised person and found ways to track my time, focus on work at home and managing multiple contracts. Like most people I found some days I could work for hours and be really productive. Other days, I would work for a few hours and give up. Being freelance means you can do this. You can work when it suits you and not just because it is office hours. I find this makes my work more productive.” 

CC: “I am now a happy freelance arts producer, writer and researcher. In terms of PAYE and freelance, there really is no point pitting one side against the other as both arrive at the table with their own stories. Both relevant. Both involve people spilling the sandwiches across the keyboard, working long hours and getting by. Both can break you. Both can feel unfair at times. ”

CC: “There are times when the future is fairly unpredictable and at times it be lean and difficult to manage. But its important to find the balance and consider how best to work during those periods . You can also be invisible at times which is something of a super power in my mind. The difference that it has made to my wellbeing is incredible. I get to see my daughter more. I am often at the school gate. I work from home, so it does mean a degree of dedication, sticking to my hours and process so that I get everything completed when required. At times I have less money and at times I am abundant with money.”

CC: “BUT I did learn a little trick. Turns out that if you seek out people to share work with in a freelance way it is amazing.” 

EM: “I was coming to the end of my final project for Wiltshire Youth Arts Partnership when my twins arrived unexpectedly at 29 weeks. Carrie had already been made redundant but, as if I had some sort sixth sense, I had spoken to her about stepping in and helping me finish off the project on a freelance basis. Two days later I messaged her from hospital to explain that my babies had been born and asked her if she would run things on the ground for me while I kept an eye on things from the hospital.”

CC: “After I stepped into help Emily manage the last part of the Dancing back to 1914 project we agreed that we should find a way to continue working with one another. “

CC: “Right now, Emily and I have teamed up to deliver a piece of work for Barnardo’s. A heritage arts project with young people with additional needs. We both have children and require a degree of flexibility for our work. We often spent time lamenting about childcare, managing kids and navigating our way through tasks while one of us is in the car and the other is chasing children around the house. We can both be found typing and emailing after the kids are in bed (like many freelancers and PAYE people). What is different however, is that we share this thinking. One of us may have to put the spinning plates down for a short while the other steps up and takes over their tasks. One of us may be incredibly tired because a child is ill. It’s a kinder way of working. It’s real and brings life into our work.”

CC: “I think it’s the way forward for a lot of my work now. Sharing the load, balancing childcare and helping one another through it. In between it we still manage to do all of our work, support and guide one another and have a laugh at our funny lives.” 

EM: “Our continued partnership has led me to find the work life balance that I want as a parent. I want to be there for my children. I want to be able to take them to school, go to sports day, help with school trips. I like taking them to their music group, meeting up with friends and taking them out to museums and the theatre. I also like my work. It is a real balance being able to be the sort of parent I want to be and still produce work that I can be proud of. Having people like Carrie to work with is how I am going to find that balance.”

EM: “Having someone who understands that when my children are ill, they are my priority is really important. Being able to offer support back when Carrie needs to drop her daughter off at her swimming club or help out on a school trip is important. I hope we can build up a team of people around us who can support us and who we can support in return. People who want to work hard, who want to produce amazing work but also realise that sometimes family, your own wellbeing and life goals are more important.”

CC: “So, for both of us a flexible routine has become our friend. We set a tone and work hard to agree when things happen, where and when. We both do a fair bit of mapping out of our time and we make time to think about money, development and progress. Connecting with people has made a real difference to both of us. Sharing contracts, pitching together and sharing the load is the way forward. It frees you up in the long run to take other work.”

We are both strong advocates of social media, it is a life source for many of us. 

Do something that makes you happy and thrive. Don’t leave PAYE work to feel the same in the freelance world. Connect, grow and develop. 

We will be updating you and sharing information about our freelance life and the work it involves. We are very excited to share some of the work that we have been involved in.

Stay tuned and please share your tips and thoughts about life in the arts sector.